‘As a 64-Year-Old-Trainer, These Are the 4 Things I Would Never Do at the Gym Anymore’

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Over the past 30 years, Liz Fichtner has been a Tae Kwon Do competitor, a bikini-wearing competitive bodybuilder, and a fitness instructor. Now 64, exercise remains a huge part of the Crunch group fitness teacher’s life. But her relationship with movement has changed.

“You don't have to prove anything to anybody anymore,” Fichtner says of exercising in her sixties. “You don't have to prove that you're a badass. It's focused on feeling good in who you are.”

"The beauty that comes with age is we know what's right. We know what feels good in the body." —Liz Fichtner

Today, her workout routine includes walking, lifting weights, dancing, doing yoga, or engaging in a variety of activities that will help her stay fit and mobile far into the future. But she also bears her limits in mind.

“I'm being true to myself and where I'm at and being happy in the stage that I'm at,” Fichtner says. “I do things that [make me] feel proud of myself, and I can still extract confidence in who I am and still becoming.”

Try Fichtner's pre-walking workout to put your best foot forward:

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A 64-year-old trainer's exercise tips for seniors

Fichtner doesn't think any specific movements or goals should be universally off limits for somebody just because they’re of a certain age. “Because there are people that are amazing that still are doing really high plyometric box jumps at this age," she points out.

However, the reality of aging does mean joints are more sensitive, there is a tendency toward lower muscle mass and bone density, and that the biological factors that contribute to balance (such as vision and the vestibular system) start to decline. So when you’re exercising in your sixties and beyond, you need to proceed with a little more caution and care than you might have in prior decades. Mostly, Fichtner just thinks that goals need to be more individually tailored to strengthen your weaknesses, avoid irritating any injuries, and help build up rather than break down your body.

"The beauty that comes with age is we know what's right," she says. "We know what feels good in the body. You just have to pay attention to it more.”

What she personally doesn't do anymore

Here’s how Fichtner approaches her own fitness routine, and the things she’s stopped doing as a 64-year-old trainer.

1. Focusing on just one fitness modality

As a former competitive bodybuilder and Tae Kwon Do athlete, Fichtner used to train intensely in these two modalities. But these days, she sees fitness as a more holistic pursuit to keep her body healthy. That means she does a variety of activities that offer different benefits.

“Especially as you're older, you need to think comprehensively,” Fichtner says. She does strength training to maintain muscle and bone density; yoga to help with mobility, balance, and mental health; and cardio to keep her metabolism burning.

Here, Fichtner shares some of her favorite morning mobility moves:

2. Jumping into something too quickly

Doing something challenging like lifting heavy weights doesn’t need to be a no-go for seniors. But starting at the beginning, and ensuring you have good form, are paramount when you try any new kind of exercise.

“Start light, really focusing on the form and how your body feels, and then progressing once you are able to,” Fichtner says. By beginning conservatively, you'll be able to track your improvements and avoid injury. “Even at our age, we still like to have that feeling of getting better,” says Fichtner.

3. Spacing out

As we get older, it only becomes even more essential to keep our mind focused while we're working out in order to avoid injury. For example, Fichtner practices good form while walking to make sure she’s engaging the correct muscles and avoiding falls.

Mindfulness particularly comes into play when she's working on her balance skills. Not only does it require focus to stay upright when you're, say, balancing on one leg. But Fichtner says that both building balance-supporting muscles and paying attention to where your body is in space (during any activity) are crucial.

"All it takes is one person to call your name while you're balancing, and if you don't have the strength around your ankles or above your knees or in your core, you're going to fall and then you're going to break your hip, and then where will you be?" Fichtner says. "Especially as I get older, that's one of the things where I like to mark my progress and feel really good about where I am—with my balance and balance work."

4. Comparing yourself to others (and past selves)

Fitness in your sixties is all about meeting yourself where you are at that moment, says Fichtner. That means not trying to do an activity just because someone else at the gym is doing it, or because it was something you were able to do last year, last month, or last week.

“What I don't do anymore is let my ego in,” Fichtner says. “I love the saying that ‘comparison is a thief of joy,’ and so don't compare yourself to who you were. Don't compare to somebody else your age doing seemingly 'better.' Just don't compare.”

Instead, take stock of your achievements, your resolve, and your strength. “Don't limit yourself to your age,” Fichtner says. “You still need to be a badass in your own right.”

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